The Titans had a great plan for stopping the Ravens Offense, but a significant reason for Baltimore’s loss was Lamar Jackson making avoidable mistakes. He didn’t throw the ball well. He didn’t see the field well. He forced passes. He played faster than normal, and not in a good way. He didn’t manage the situations of the game, and the Ravens are home for the offseason as a result.
It started on Baltimore’s first drive. Jackson had tight end Mark Andrews wide open on a deep over route, but misfired high. The ball deflected off of Andrews’ hands, resulting in an interception.
This should have been an easy completion for a big gain. Instead, it set up Tennessee’s first touchdown.
After a 4th-and-1 stop on their next drive, which led to another Titans touchdown, the Ravens trailed 14-0. They still had plenty of time left in the game, though. They just had to settle down, run their offense, and take what the defense was giving them.
However, on the first play of their next drive, Jackson forced a pass to a tightly covered Seth Roberts. You’ll notice that Jackson had wide receiver Marquise Brown open on the left sideline (near Roberts).
Nevermind that this was an absolutely perfect ball. The degree of difficulty on the catch was high because the defender covering Roberts was right in front of him, impeding his view. Jackson clearly didn’t read the defense on this play, instead predetermining where he was going to throw the ball. The result was an incompletion.
Two plays later on 3rd down, the Titans brought a blitz (something that gave Jackson trouble on Saturday). He appeared to feel the pressure off the edge and had to rush his throw.
It would have taken great anticipation to complete this pass, something that is not a huge component of Jackson’s game at this point in his career.
On the Ravens’ first scoring drive of the game, Jackson again showed his imprecision, misfiring to an open Willie Snead on 3rd down.
That throw has to be completed. If Jackson puts this ball on his receiver’s front shoulder, the Ravens either get the first down or are close enough to go for it on 4th down (which we know they would).
The two turnovers committed by Jackson in the 3rd quarter were the daggers in the game and in Baltimore’s season.
The first came after the Ravens fell behind 21-6. Things were starting to look a little dicey for the Ravens. However, it was still the 3rd quarter, and the Titans only had a 2-possession lead. There was still enough time for Baltimore to run its offense and take the positive plays that Tennessee was giving, especially on 1st down. That’s what Jackson should have done here.
This ball should have been out right after the top of Jackson’s drop to his running back in the flat. Jackson did a great job of avoiding the initial pressure from Jurrell Casey, but Casey was still within arm’s length of him. Jackson should have either thrown this ball away or tried to run. Live to play another down. Unfortunately for Baltimore, he held on to the ball and continued to look downfield for the big play. It wasn’t there, at least for the Ravens.
Down 28-6 on their next drive, Jackson gave the ball back once again. The Titans did a great job here of disguising their coverage and forcing a poor decision by Jackson. This was 3rd-and-5. The Titans appeared to be playing a single-high coverage, perhaps Cover-3.
This meant the flats would likely be open shortly after the snap. After the snap, though, the deep safety ran to the far side of the field. The cornerback at the bottom of the screen dropped deep as well. The underneath safety to that side, Kenny Vaccaro, moved quickly to the flat. This was actually cover-2 (inverted cover-2 to the bottom of the screen). In this coverage, the flats are generally taken away immediately after the snap.
By the time Jackson realized it, it was too late. The ball was out and on its way into safety Kenny Vaccaro’s hands for the interception.
It was a disappointing finish to a phenomenal season for Lamar Jackson. That said, the lack of precision to Jackson’s game as a passer is still his biggest area of weakness. In the few instances during his first two seasons when the Ravens’ running game hasn’t been a huge factor, Jackson has struggled. Opponents will continue to try and make him beat them with his arm from the pocket until he proves he can do it consistently.
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